My researches into the history of the Detection Club have been helped by a friend who supplied me with a list of club members dating back to 1932, not long after the august institution was founded. The committee members, led by G.K.Chesterton as President, were E.C.Bentley, Anthony Berkeley, G.D.H. and M. Cole, Edgar Jepson, Milward Kennedy, John Rhode and Dorothy L. Sayers.
But what really caught my eye was the addresses of the members. A very high proportion of them lived in London and nearby counties. Only J.J. Connington (Belfast), Robert Eustace (Cornwall), Baroness Orczy (Monte Carlo – at the Villa Bijou!), John Rhode (Somerset) and Hugh Walpole (Keswick) came from further afield.
Was this representative of where British crime writers lived during the Golden Age? To a large extent, I think it was. Of course, the Club membership was self-selecting and this may have resulted in fewer writers from other parts of the Kingdom being elected, but by and large, I think that one of the changes in the crime genre over the past 80 years is not only that more stories are written with a regional backdrop, but more of the people who are writing them come from different places in Britain. I guess that there may have been a broadly similar trend in the US over a similar time-frame.
The crime writing community seems, therefore, to be much less enclosed than it used to be. And websites, social networking and – yes! – blogs are surely bound to strengthen this development. Of course, I think it’s healthy, and I can recall that even in my teens, my parents felt that writing novels was not really something that ordinary people like us did, which was why they encouraged me to get a proper job. So the changes are for the better, but I remain fascinated by the cliquey yet intriguing world of the 1930s detective-writing community.